A STEEP PRICE by Robert Dugoni perfectly balances the character’s professional and personal lives.  This sixth book in the series continues with Seattle Violent Crimes homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite and her fellow A-Team colleagues.  Although the two cases to solve are not related, Dugoni is able to show how a real precinct works.

The first crime has Vic Fazzio (Faz) and his partner investigating the murder of a community activist who stood up to the realities of drug dealing, sex escorts, and gangs. Faz’s determination to nail the obvious suspect leads him to a South Park housing project. He searches for evidence against the menacing Cartel Surano, which is led by Little Jimmy. Because his partner injured his back Vic is now paired with the newbie, Andrea Gonzalez. Complicating everything is the shooting of the key witness.  His and Gonzalez’s account do not mesh and it appears she is trying to frame him over the fatal shot.

The other crime has Tracy Crosswhite helping on a missing person’s case. Tracy wonders if anyone in the victim’s estranged family is responsible after Kavita Mukherjee balked at an arranged marriage and had plans to attend medical school. She is found dead in a park and now Tracy is determined to find the killer.

These fast-moving plot lines intertwined with some social issues creates a gripping story. Dugoni’s ability to tell a riveting action-packed plot while exploring the topics of arranged marriages, returning to work after a pregnancy, a cancer diagnosis, sex escorts, and drug dealers within a community, makes for a riveting suspense novel.

Elise Cooper:  How did you get the idea for the story?

Robert Dugoni:  I got into a UBER with a young guy in the car.  We got to talking and he told me he had just been married.  I asked if he had dated for a long time and the response, ‘no, it was an arranged marriage.’ He was Eastern Indian and told me he met her twice before the marriage.  His parents were the product of an arranged marriage and have been together for thirty years.  I was told by him arranged marriages have a lot less divorces.  As he was talking I took notes in my head and then started the research.

EC:  The book explores American contemporary values versus old time values?

RD:  I tried to cover all types of relationships.  Nick Fazzio and his wife, Vera, were the product of a blind date, getting engaged after three days. I also wrote about on-line ‘sugar dating.’  Police told me it is legal, but has the potential to take advantage of young women.  I do not think how we get married is what makes a marriage work, but rather the people involved.  What I did find is that children born here from other cultures adapt American values to get along and survive.  This is what I did with Kavita.

EC:  How would you describe Kavita?

RD:  Strong-willed, independent, defiant, and looking to carve her own path in life. She is also mature for her age; yet, at times makes rash decisions.

EC:  Through some of your characters you show that parents have separation anxiety from their child?

RD:  My wife had that also.  It was difficult for her to get back to work after my first child was born.  It was also difficult for me.  I would have to leave when my son first woke up as he was jumping up and down.  I would come home after a long day and he would be getting ready for bed.  I knew then this was not the life I wanted.

EC:  Since Tracy is pregnant, once she has the child are you afraid of jumping the shark?

RD:  I had four sisters who are all professionals and mothers.  I have some thoughts on how I will handle this going forward.  It will make it really difficult with the plot lines, but a challenge I wanted to take on.  I decided early on that Tracy needs to progress and grow as a person.  This includes her personal life.  What will be the challenge is that thrillers try to isolate and endanger the protagonist, but I need to remember she is now a mother.

EC: Tracy seems to fear about job security after she comes back from maturity leave?

RD:  She is a tough cookie.  When on the job she is all business.  Her problem is she must deal with a sexist pig, Captain Johnny Nolasco.  Her concern is that he brought in a Hispanic woman, Andrea Gonzalez. If a team has an urgent need they can bring in somebody.  She can have her job back, but not necessarily with the A Team.  She will have to be put back in a position of a detective on a violent crimes team.  Yet, she can become the fifth wheel or go to another team. It will be difficult for her to argue she was demoted because of sexism.  I think in other circumstances she and Gonzalez would probably have been close instead of clashing as they are now.

EC:  Tracy is a part of the “A Team.”  Does that mean she is on the best team?

RD: No.  This is how Seattle crime units are sectioned off.  It is just a designation:  A, B, C.  One is not better than the other.

EC:  There is a book quote about Dan, “His sunglasses weren’t the only similarity to John Lennon, the Beatles’ founder.”  You actually had to explain who he is?

RD:  I have readers of all age groups so I cannot just assume.  I grew up with the Beatles that were a big part of my life and now a big part of Tracy’s husband, Dan’s life.  For me, they really changed the music industry in a lot of ways.  Similar is Elvis Presley who took risks, but the young people out there see him as that fat Vegas performer.

EC:  You wrote in the dedication of the book, “To all the women who have suffered from breast cancer and have fought the good fight.  Hopefully, someday, research will break through and we finally will have a cure.”  One of your characters, Vera, has breast cancer.  Please explain.

RD:  My mother is a breast-cancer survivor of twenty-five years. She went through it when I was younger.  I have a sister-in-law who is currently going through this.  We lost my cousin’s wife from breast cancer.  It really impacts families. It really impacted me.  It is very difficult.

EC:  You mention the Seattle Mariners baseball team a couple of times.  Are you a fan?

RD:  I am.  I root for the San Francisco Giants as my National League team since I grew up there.  The Mariners are my American League team.  Many people have told me it is boring.  My answer, then you do not know baseball because it definitely is not.  The Mariners have teased us in the past, and it would be nice if they made the play-offs.

EC:  Can you give a heads-up about your next book?

RD:  It will be an espionage book based on real events.  The first series I wrote, David Sloane novels, had as a character, a former CIA agent, Charles Jenkins.  This book out in 2019 will be his story.  The next Tracy book will be out the following year.  I have been very lucky and fortunate that reader interest has not trailed off since the first book. My Sisters’ Grave, which was a blockbuster.